Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her and was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has served as Illume Fertility's dedicated Patient Advocate and Strategic Content Lead for many years and is the founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support patients through gentle movement and meditation. Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.
Father’s Day can be an exceptionally tough day for men who are still trying to conceive or experiencing infertility. Similar to how Mother’s Day affects women, hopeful fathers may find this holiday very difficult to navigate. As a partner, how can you show your love and support around Father's Day? Keep reading for some helpful ideas.
As we all know, people have different coping methods for getting through painful experiences, which can include denial, distraction and avoidance. And it's important to recognize that there are some societal expectations around men expressing (or rather, not expressing) their emotions. This can make Father's Day quite complicated.
Even though a lot of emotions get stirred up on the third Sunday of June, especially for those who are hoping to become a father, some men may prefer to simply not acknowledge the holiday at all. And that's valid too!
But if you have a partner or a spouse in your life who’s hoping to be a father, let's discuss some ways you can offer support and express your love for them on and around Father's Day.
What to Ask Yourself Before You Speak to Him
If you are wondering what he needs and are hoping to help make the day more bearable (or even enjoyable), then here are a few questions to ask yourself before you approach your partner or spouse:
Do you know how he feels about this holiday?
Do you know if he considers this day to be about his own dad or himself?
Do you know what he wants to do this Sunday?
Do you know if he’d prefer to discuss the day or ignore any feelings he might have?
Do you know if he’s even fully aware that Father’s Day is coming up?
Considering those five questions can be a helpful place to start, and will narrow down what you might want to ask him about the upcoming holiday.
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Don’t Make Assumptions
Just as each person on a fertility journey is unique, each man has a slightly different relationship to Father's Day.
I have a husband who preferred to ignore Father’s Day completely. When asked, he would answer me with one-word responses. What I found was that if I asked him five questions, I’d end up with enough information to work with - and it helped. In our six years of struggling with infertility, we observed the day differently each time.
Consider these points if you’re trying to figure out how the man in your life feels about Father’s Day:
#1 You don't really know how he feels unless you ask
You may think you know, and you may very well be right. But if you really want to know how he feels, then ask and truly listen to the answer. My advice? Ask another question when he’s finished speaking and listen again. Because even if you’re a million percent right about his feelings, it can be a relief to him to express himself out loud to someone who’s listening sympathetically- you. You also may hear that his feelings are not precisely what you thought, and it can help inform you about how best to support him.
#2 Things can change from year to year
If you’re building a support plan for him based on how he felt last year, that was 365 days ago - and a lot can change in a year. You've probably experienced changes in perspective and how you experience things yourself as you move through your fertility journey!
Depending on where the two of you are in treatment, or what test results you’ve received, he may feel very differently than he did last year. The best way to find out how he’s feeling right now is to simply ask.
#3 He may be keeping his feelings to himself
You may assume that because he hasn’t said anything about it that he’s not thinking (or feeling) anything about Father’s Day. But given the unrelenting reminders surrounding Father’s Day, this is unlikely.
There may be any number of reasons why he hasn’t brought it up. A few that I hear regularly in our Ladies' Night In peer support group:
He doesn’t want to upset me
He thinks he may feel worse after talking about it
He worries that he’s overreacting because he’s already upset
He is being stoic - trying to stay strong but silent
The only assumption you can make, in my opinion, is that he probably knows that Father’s Day is coming up. With all the reminders popping up on social media and in advertising, it’s nearly impossible to forget.
Offer Men Support Through Infertility
Communication is the most essential part of supporting your partner, which can be heartbreakingly difficult when you're focusing all your energy and time on trying to conceive.
I remember worrying that I’d bring up touchy topics (like Father's Day) in the one second of peace that my husband Bill was feeling, and that I’d shatter that moment for him. I deliberated over whether it was better to avoid it all or whether I was infantilizing him, and it was really no big deal.
What I found out from my lovely husband was that each year, he felt very differently. One year, we stayed home and had a BBQ in the back yard and played lacrosse (very badly on my part, very patiently on his part). Another year, we saw all my cousins and their children, because that’s what he wanted to see - hope.
Though these considerations do apply to all couples, if you're the female partner going through the majority of the fertility testing and treatment (and yes, physical side effects), your male partner may feel extra cautious about speaking up about their own feelings - knowing how much you're going through.
By recognizing that your partner is likely experiencing a lot of the same tough emotions as you, and creating space for them to safely share their feelings without worrying that they'll be judged or minimized, you open the floor for better communication, understanding, and even closeness.
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Practice Empathetic Listening
As simple as it may sound, if you want to know how they feel about Father's Day, just ask. And when they answer, employ empathetic listening. Listen to their responses and ask them if you understand their answer correctly. Then try to dig a little deeper.
They may not want to talk about it. Listen to them tell you that and acknowledge their pain. Really look at their faces, their shoulders, their body language. Look them deep in the eyes and truly see them.
What are they saying? And more importantly, what are they not saying?
Our men will have all sorts of feelings about this day. They may not want to talk about it. They may only answer you with one word: fine, good, okay. (Those are some personal favorites in my house.)
That’s alright! Ask them anyway. And then listen to what they tell you. Both with your ears and your heart.
Prioritize Your Relationship Outside of Infertility
When you're navigating fertility struggles as a couple, your relationship can often suffer. You may both feel completely alone and unable to communicate your true feelings about the experience because you're worried you'll upset your partner. But remaining a united front and remembering what brought you two together in the first place can be a powerful exercise.
Infertility advocate Sue Johnston offers this important reminder:
"Infertility takes a serious toll on relationships and things can get unromantic and disconnected quickly. Think about why you are with him in the first place. You may want to write a list of things that attracted to him to you and give that list to him in a card on Father's Day."
If you don't want to write down a list, consider setting up a date night around Father's Day and convey your appreciation and love for your partner in conversation. There's no right or wrong way to approach it - just know that expressing your love and support will likely go a long way.
Christopher Wohl knows what he’s talking about - he’s been through infertility. His words of advice on what to expect from the man in your life may be the most helpful and relevant thing you'll read.
“The point is that we (fellas) say we don’t need special attention. We are far too masculine to be treated in a kinder, softer manner, even if it is only for a single day. So, take that ball of unacknowledged emotional denial and compound it with the longing to simply be a dad and what you are left with is what? Maybe a guy that might seem even a bit more absent, slightly more aloof, or maybe abnormally 'busy' on Father’s Day - kind of the 'I will work this day out of existence' approach. Ultimately, not a good day, not a typical day, not a day that you would like repeated.”
In short, the best way to support your partner this Father's Day isn't with some grand gesture or buying them an expensive, distracting gift. Just ask them about how they're feeling and listen to what they need. And remember that if the guy in your life simply wants to be left alone to ignore the day completely, that may actually be the kindest thing you can offer them.
More Resources for Hopeful Dads
Looking for more support or information on male fertility and mental health? Explore the links below: